Ha Long Bay on the rice paddies

OK, so the description is a wee bit overblown but my day trip to Tam Coc in Ninh Binh (think like Nimbin for pronunciation) province was really lovely.  The people you end up travelling with on day trips though – they’re always a little weird.  There are many, many French tourists in Vietnam.  Our group encountered them in practically every hotel we stayed in and every major sight we visited.  So of course there were a few on my trip yesterday, including a very opinionated and slightly grabby older French man who was very relieved to find out I was Australian not American.  Which was probably just as well considering his views on America, imperialism, colonialism, the war, the EU, Italy’s place in the EU, the English language, and pretty much everything else he felt like discussing with everyone.  I ended up tallking with a Thai girl called Aon because we were the only ones from our countries on the trip.  Everyone else was from France or Germany.

But more importantly, my trip to Tam Coc.  Pictures probably describe this area better but basically part of Ninh Binh province has a series of gigantic limestone karsts and mountains similar in look to Ha Long Bay (but inland).  Tam Coc (meaning three caves) is an area where a river flows along what would be the valley floor.  In some places it is only waist deep and it flows through three caves.  The attraction here is that you can get in a rowboat and be rowed for about two hours through the valleys and mountains and through the three caves – some of which are so low you can touch the ceiling.  It was a lovely afternoon and definitely worth seeing.  We had spent the morning viewing two temples that had been established when Hoa Lu (in Ninh Binh province) had been capital back in the eleventh century.  And the best part?  The crazy French man stayed behind, so I didn’t have to listen to him for the nearly three hour return journey (although I did have to listen to the bus drivers awful taste in music).